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Lead-Safe Wisconsin: Lead Paint Test Kits

Use this information if you’re thinking about getting a lead paint test kit. If you have a question that isn’t included below, email us at DHSAsbestosLead@dhs.wisconsin.gov or call 608-261-6876.

Many renovation, repair, and painting activities disturb painted surfaces and can create lead dust dangers in homes and child care centers built before 1978.

If you’re a certified lead-safe renovator, you can only use a test kit if you’re asked to by the owner.

Also, you can only use paint chip sampling and paint testing using an X-ray fluorescence analyzer if you’re a certified lead risk assessor or inspector.

You can use a lead test kit in your home to test for the presence of lead in paint. You may want to use a lead test kit for a few reasons, including:

  • When you’re considering a do-it-yourself remodeling project.
  • When you’re worried about dust coming from paint or varnish that has deteriorated or could be affected by friction or impact (like a window sash or door).
  • When you’re bringing vintage furniture, décor, cookware, or dishware into your home.

We recommend hiring a lead inspector or risk assessor to test for lead in your home. These certified professionals have the right equipment to test your home for lead-based paint. Risk assessors can also identify dust and soil hazards, and provide you with options and recommendations for controlling lead dangers.

If you test for lead yourself, keep a written record of the locations you test because federal law requires you to disclose it if you sell or rent your home. Learn more about disclosing lead-based paint in real estate.

Also, make sure you follow the lead test kit instructions closely. Because lead-based paint is often covered over with newer paint, the surface must be disturbed to test the deepest layers. If you only test the surface, you can get a false negative.

If a contractor ever asks you to use a test kit to find out if lead-safe work practices are needed, consider hiring someone else. A contractor who is following the rules on lead-safe renovation won’t rely on testing done by a homeowner.

Who can use a test kit?

Testing for lead-based paint is regulated. To use a lead test kit to check for lead-based paint before renovating, you must hold one of the following certifications:

Who cannot use a test kit?

A lead test kit should never be used to conduct a lead inspection, risk assessment, or clearance.

These are the professions that cannot use a test kit:

When can a test kit be used?

A test kit can only be used when it’s requested by the person contracting for renovation services. You can only test areas that will be disturbed during the project.

What do I need to know to conduct pre-renovation testing with a lead test kit?

You must test each component and surface that will be affected by the renovation according to the test kit instructions.

What’s a “component”?

A “component” is a specific design, architectural, or structural element—or fixture of a structure—that is distinguished from another component by form, function, or location.

Interior components include:

  • Air conditioners
  • Balustrades
  • Bathroom vanities
  • Beams
  • Built-in cabinets
  • Ceilings
  • Chair rails
  • Columns
  • Countertops
  • Crown moldings
  • Doors
  • Door trim
  • Fireplaces
  • Floors
  • Newel posts
  • Radiators or other heating units
  • Railing caps
  • Shelf supports
  • Shelves
  • Stair risers
  • Stair stringers
  • Stair treads
  • Walls
  • Windows and trim (including sash, window head, jamb, interior sill or stool and trough)

Exterior components include:

  • Air conditioners
  • Balustrades
  • Bulkheads
  • Casing
  • Ceilings
  • Chimneys
  • Columns
  • Corner boards
  • Doors
  • Door trim
  • Downspouts
  • Exterior windowsills
  • Fascia
  • Fences
  • Flashings
  • Floors
  • Gutters
  • Handrails
  • Joists
  • Lattice work
  • Painted roofing
  • Railings
  • Railing caps
  • Rake boards
  • Sashes
  • Siding
  • Soffits
  • Stair rises
  • Stair stringers
  • Stair treads
  • Window troughs or wells

Example 1: A single window system may require the use of 10 or more swabs to test all its components, including the:

  • Apron
  • Exterior framing
  • Exterior/interior sash and muntins
  • Exterior/interior sill
  • Interior stop
  • Interior window casing
  • Window jamb
  • Window well

Example 2: Each wall in a room is considered a separate component. A wall split by a chair rail requires one lead check swab for the area below the chair rail and one lead check swab for the area above the chair rail. Chair rails, baseboards, and crown moldings on each wall need to be tested separately.

You must follow the manufacturer’s instructions for using the lead paint kit. That includes:

  • Keeping:
    • A record of the manufacturer and model of each test kit used.
    • A description of each component tested, including the specific location.
    • The result for each location and test kit used.
  • Providing the written lead test kit report to the person contracting the work within 10 days of completing the renovation project. You can use our Test Kit Documentation Form (PDF) to help you with this.

Learn more about Wisconsin law and lead test kit use:

Which test kits can I use?

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) recognizes paint test kits that have been tested and determined to meet the response criteria for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The agency currently recognizes two test kits that are available in Wisconsin:

Remember not to store test kits where they could freeze (e.g., a car or unheated garage). They won’t work after freezing.

Last revised November 22, 2022